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How to start the definition phase effectively

From the muscle mass gain phase to the definition phase, what should change?

Discover here the best way to approach the muscle definition phase

From fluffy fat to hot skinny, the question everyone asks is what changes they should make when they enter the definition phase.

In general, people tend to complicate this transition.

In terms of diet, it is almost obvious that if we want to lose fat, we will need to lose some weight, and for that we will have to start eating less.

As discussed in the article Pyramid of Metabolism, one of the factors in our energy balance is the calories burned during training.

It is important to create a calorie deficit to promote this fat burning.

But what about training?

First of all, I will focus on bodybuilding training for the muscle definition.

When we have a caloric intake above our daily maintenance requirement, we are in caloric surplus, which in itself allows us to have more energy available.

It's that extra energy that allows us to generally have longer workouts and recover faster from them.

That is, the weekly training volume, by muscle group, can be greater during a caloric surplus.

muscle definition

The blue line represents maintenance calories, the magenta line below the blue line represents a caloric deficit and the green line represents a caloric surplus.

Analyzing the above graph, it is possible to observe that in a caloric deficit it is impossible to gain muscle mass at the same rate as is possible in a caloric surplus.

Furthermore, it is very unlikely that they will be able to support and benefit from the same volume of training that they would have in a caloric surplus.

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In a caloric deficit, it is much easier to get into excess work, that is, the so-called overtraining.

I mean I should decrease the training volume, is that it?

Like the answers I give in all the articles, I can tell you that it depends.

If weight and fat loss has a primary aesthetic focus, then the priority will be to maintain (or in the event of a miracle, gain) as much muscle mass as possible.

In this sense, we should also pay attention to the impact of including cardiovascular training.

Given the above, we have three possible scenarios to create a caloric deficit in order to maintain muscle mass.

Hypothesis 1 – Decrease calories to create a deficit

If a calorie deficit has been created by reducing calorie intake, then the focus of the training plan should be to maintain adequate strength and volume in order to preserve as much muscle mass as possible.

This is usually where you see big flaws.

It's common to see a lot of people who follow a high volume training plan during bulk, and then suddenly switch to a low volume workout repetitions and low volume, which focuses on maintaining strength to ensure you maintain muscle mass.

Maintaining most of our strength is a good indication of maintaining muscle mass, however, reducing training volume will affect our weekly caloric expenditure – burning fewer calories during training – and we also end up possibly not promoting sufficient training volume to preserve muscle mass.

Example. Alberto is an athlete who in bulk achieved his peak performance with high volume training. Performed in 6 sets of bench press, 10 repetitions with a load of 80kg.

When it came to the cut, Alberto was in doubt about what plan to follow.

Let's imagine two possible paths.

He kept the same type of training, reducing slightly and only the number of sets.

Alberto's focus will be to keep the 80kg for the possible repetitions, which we imagine are around 8 due to caloric reduction, and bets on doing 4-5 sets.

The volume in the bench press exercise in this case would be 5x8x80 = 3200kg.

Changed the type of training to something like 5×5.

Alberto's focus will be to do 100kg for 5 reps. Also, if you can maintain your strength, you think you are maintaining all your muscle mass.

The volume in the bench press exercise here would be 5x5x100 = 2500kg.

As you can see in this example just described, keeping the same training structure, and losing a few reps in performance, the first approach allows for a higher total training volume, and for our aesthetic focus, it will still burn more calories and promote more hypertrophy.

If Alberto opted for the 5×5 option, it would not be entirely wrong, however, if fat loss is focused on aesthetics and not the demonstration of maximum strength, it is faster to recover an 80kg bench press than a 100kg bench press .

If we apply these examples to more strenuous exercises such as squats or dead weight, the fatigue factor is even more prevalent.

muscle definition

Hypothesis 2 - Increase caloric expenditure through exercise (keeping calories)

Let's imagine that we are talking about someone who has no deadline, such as a photo shoot or a competition, or someone who is not willing to reduce their caloric intake too much.

If you are a person who has done a low-volume workout, we can create a deficit by increasing physical exercise, increasing caloric expenditure.

Thus, adding more sets, repetitions and/or exercises to the previous workout will allow you to increase your caloric expenditure.

Unfortunately this technique is most often poorly implemented.

Taking the previous case, I'm not referring to going from a 3×5 style training to a 4×15 training, but rather that it is essential to have a gradual increase in sets and/or repetitions, within the same training approach that was being used. used.

An extremely important factor is related to recovery, which must be taken into account, and if the increases in total training volume are limited, our recovery capacity is also limited.

While this approach may be viable, it becomes limited to a certain extent, and as such, we will move on to the next hypothesis, which addresses a more common technique.

muscle definition

Hypothesis 3 – Decrease calories to create a deficit and increase caloric expenditure

Combining what was described in the previous hypotheses, we will create a deficit by reducing caloric intake and increasing caloric expenditure through training.

After choosing hypothesis 1 or hypothesis 2, this should be the next step.

Making all the changes at the same time doesn't give us enough granularity to assess the impacts of the changes we've made.

Also, if we apply everything in the beginning, what are we going to apply when we stagnate?

After all, what method should I use?

In my opinion, the best method initial is hypothesis 1.

Create a calorie deficit in the diet and keep your weight training as often/weekly as possible, in order to recover properly between workouts, instead of starting to add more weight training and/or cardio workouts right at the start.

As soon as progress is stagnant, readjust the deficit in hypothesis 1, or proceed to hypothesis 3, where, in addition to the deficit, we increase the weekly caloric expenditure.

In order not to affect the strength training, possibly moderate doses of cardio may be introduced, with slight daily reductions in calories (only when stagnant).

Initially 1-2 weekly sessions of cardio, lasting 30 minutes and of moderate intensity will suffice and initial dietary adjustments, in the order of magnitude of 150-250 kcal per day, depending on your weight, would be a good start.

As the analysis of situations and adjustments must be light, we should not put the “all meat in the roaster”.

Weight training is very important for maintaining muscle mass, as it creates a stimulus to signal that we need that muscle mass.

Also, weight training burns almost as many calories as cardio, or maybe even more.

You mean I don't need to do cardio?

The most important component for the Muscular hypertrophy, is the training volume (sets x reps x weight).

As such, if we want to maintain muscle mass, we have to make as much volume as possible, capable of recovering between workouts.

So why not train 7x a week, 3 hours a day, with a caloric deficit and stay in top shape?

Because for every calorie spent on training, weight training generates much more fatigue than cardiovascular training, making adequate recovery very difficult, or nearly impossible.

Thus, it becomes more evident why cardiovascular training is a good way to burn a considerable amount of calories, without affecting to a large extent the strength training and your recovery.

definition

Conclusion

When deciding to enter a fat loss phase, both diet and training have to be taken into consideration.

The maintenance/increase of training volume and the reduction in caloric intake are two factors that contribute to the success in this muscle definition process.

However, both variables must be changed independently and never simultaneously, in order to ensure that the evaluation of the results is easy to understand for possible future changes.

Be pragmatic and objective, nothing was done overnight.

Article written by Team Sik Nutrition

How to start the definition phase effectively

About the author

Team Sik Nutrition, is a recent group of people in love with the world of Fitness. The Team's focus is to guide, educate and motivate those interested in achieving their health and physical / performance objectives. All this sharing is based on scientific facts and experience of the Team members.

The CEO of Team Sik Nutrition, is João Gonçalves. Amateur powerlifter, passionate about Fitness and writing articles.

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